Thoughts from the isolation sofa III

Chaplaincy at Canterbury Christ Church

Thoughts from the isolation sofa III

I don’t want to forget.……….

How are you this week? I hope that you have all taken time to get use to the ‘new normal’. We are aware as a Chaplaincy team that new normal has meant increased workload; financial pressures; worries over food and heightened concerns for family and friends for many people. Please take care not to burnout and allow yourself time for self-healing. As a team we are still here for you and still supporting, if any of the things above are affecting you please get in touch so we can help you.

Over the weekend for those of us that are used to liturgical worship based on the revised common lectionary, it was Passion Sunday. This marks the time when our Lenten thoughts turn from Jesus’s time in the wilderness towards Jerusalem, the events of Palm Sunday, and then through Holy Week onto the Easter narrative of the death and resurrection of Christ and the hope that holds.

However, that was not the only thing that seemed to change over the weekend so did my social media feed. At some point over the weekend social media seemed to move from gallows humour over Covid-19 towards two strands of thoughts. The first strand was some interesting articles and interviews dealing with the consequence of Covid-19 and what that might mean for Christians the world over in terms of prayer and worship. The other was several short videos that tried desperately to portray hope.

One of these videos, that seemed to be particularly popular and gained a number of shares on social media platforms started with the following words “when in a few weeks this is all over and forgotten about…” and it is this that I really want to address.

Maybe I’m of the wrong generation to see hope in that, or maybe its my theological understanding of the situation. The last thing that I want to hear is a semi-patronising voice behind a badly stitched series of images saying “when in a few weeks this is all over and forgotten about…” I shall explain.

First, it does not portray hope but a naivety of the situation that the country and the world faces. At this stage it is dangerous for our mental health to make statements which define this as passing in a few weeks. As I spoke about last week one of the biggest challenges that we face now is anticipatory grief and the anxiety that causes. If we start making plans and putting time scales against things, we increase that and run the risk of a double hit if those time scales must move. It is more hopeful to concentrate on the things that we have here, in the present, that we can truly be grateful for and not the hope of things to come that may be built on false expectations.

Also, for many, even if lockdown finished tomorrow their lives cannot simply return to some period in January where for many the term ‘coronavirus’ referred to a problem in China and the most important job was booking the summer holiday. Since that point in time their lives have been irrevocably changed. The personal cost of Covid-19 will be so great, that for months, years or even the rest of their lives they will struggle to find anything representing the peace that they had in January. For those that have been bereaved, lost jobs, facing financial ruin the personal cost is very high, as will be the cost for many people in terms of mental health. If speculation is right, then by the end of the pandemic half of our brave front line NHS staff will be suffering PTSD, many members of staff in various organisation will have burnt themselves out to the stage of nervous breakdown. There will also be a consequence in terms of how we move and react as a society when we all emerge out of our houses, talk to anybody that has served time in prison to know that release does not mean freedom.

It is with that in mind that I would also like to push back against “is all forgotten”. Personally, and theologically that is one of the most dreadful statements that I have heard being connected with Covid-19. It belittles the life of the tens of thousands worldwide that have lost their lives and the many more that will inevitably follow. Those lives must never be reduced to a number on a spreadsheet, each one of those lives is a human being we should  continue to  referred to in their full humanity, as members of our communities that were loved and for whom we  grieve. We also must never forget and learn from how nature has started to heal herself, whether that is goats on the streets of Llandudno or wild boars coming into villages in Italy. The drop in pollution levels is so noticeable now that NASA have started to report that images from the ISS have started to show clear shots of parts of the world that have until now been covered by the fog of pollution. In terms of church we need to remember how the Covid-19 crisis has allowed a greater freedom:  church communities that only talked on a Sunday morning have found new ways to connect during the week.

We must also remember what it is like to struggle to get shopping, how we have to be more conscious of how we use the resources that we have, and how some companies have supported their workers and others, often the wealthiest, have dropped theirs into the pit of financial devastation. For myself I hope that I never forget how important the Psalms have become to my prayer life but more importantly I hope that I never forget how the events since 13th March have led me to a deeper and greater faith in the Father. I will turn that to next week when I will reflect on Covid-19 and Passover but for now I leave you with my prayers for the coming week and this quote from Psalm 73:16-17

“When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God….”

Blessings Pete.


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